Innsbruck ’76 : Holecek Held Off Finland

JIRI HOLECEK (2) is easily one of the most accomplished goaltenders in the history of international hockey. Holecek captured three titles ('72, '76, '77) at the annual IIHF World Championships for Czechoslovakia and was chosen to the media All-Star team five times ('71, '72, '73, '76, '78).

JIRI HOLECEK (2) is easily one of the most accomplished goaltenders in the history of international hockey. Holecek captured three titles ('72, '76, '77) at the annual IIHF World Championships for Czechoslovakia and was chosen to the media All-Star team five times ('71, '72, '73, '76, '78).

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Perhaps Finland had saved some of the spark from their 4-3 upset victory over Sweden on the final day at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. Or maybe it was MATTI RAUTIANEN’s five goals versus Japan in their qualification game at Innsbruck that had fired up the Finns. Whatever the case, Finland certainly put forth a concentrated effort against powerful Czechoslovakia on the opening day of final round-robin play at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Austria.

Forty-seven shots in all Suomi fired at their opponent’s goal. Unfortunately for the Finns, standing in front of the Czechoslovak net was none other than JIRI HOLECEK. The 31-year-old veteran international was already a three-time winner (’71, ’73, ’75) of the IIHF Directorate’s award for Best Goalie at the annual World Championships. PERTTI KOIVULAHTI was the only Finn who would manage to put a puck past the Sparta Prague goaltender.

Holecek handled the other 46 shots effectively as JIRI NOVAK’s two goals helped the Czechoslovaks avert a major disaster derailing their bid to challenge the Soviet Union for gold medal supremacy at Innsbruck.

Holecek handed in a clean sheet for Czechoslovakia’s next match, a 5-0 defeat of the United States, to follow up. That would turn out to be the only shutout registered by any of the six teams in the final round-robin at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games.

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“Holecek is the best goalie in the world – better than (Vladislav) Tretiak, (Ken) Dryden or (Bernie) Parent.” — BOBBY HULL at the 1976 Canada Cup

 JIRI HOLECEK would collect two more Best Goalie awards at the annual IIHF World Championships, in 1976 and 1978, and finished his career with an all-time high of five such selections.

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